It’s a shame we take for granted the things we have in abundance, especially when so many people lack them. I’m talking about freedom and personal independence, those basic human rights that my country protects. What’s more, I get to make a living in acting, giving me a lot of freedom for me to choose my work.
But that freedom hardly is universal. And my recent role in a movie called "Not Today" has put me on the soapbox about the millions of people living right now with no freedom at all.
In 2013—today—world over, children, women and men are trapped in the multi-billion dollar machine of buying and selling human beings. By some estimates, 27 million people right now are worked, prostituted, abused, used...with no choices, no options, no freedom. And each year their traffickers reap more than $31 billion in profits.
You’ve probably brushed past some of the victims of trafficking—many U.S. communities harbor slaves unaware. But in countries like India, the dark business of bondage is a national disaster. And because of my work on "Not Today," I now know that every single statistic represents a human face. And even more important, I can have more than concern or outrage. I also have ways to help.
"Not Today" is the story of Caden Welles, a callous American college student on vacation with friends in Hyderabad, India. Caden is played by Hollywood Heights star Cody Longo.
Caden eventually grows a conscience and a backbone during his trip to India, but only after he refuses to help a starving young beggar girl and her father from India’s large population of “untouchables.” When he learns she’s been sold into the hands of sex traffickers, his fight to save that one girl becomes everyone's call to action.
But hear me on this. Our call isn’t just to rescue children one by one but to start where we are to help raise a defense for the most vulnerable children in slavery’s most vulnerable country. And the thing is, it’s not hard.
Because the key is education.
"Not Today" was made by Friends Church in California. After Friends’ pastor saw for himself the tragedies of India’s Dalit people, he got to know Dalit Freedom Network, which builds schools to educate the next generation. So he did the only reasonable thing he could do: He promised $20 million to help build another 200 schools. And 40 new schools already have gone up thanks to Friends Church dollars.
Next thing you know, a church is making a movie about a spoiled American kid in India, and I’m playing his dad. The church’s mission with this movie is to raise awareness, not money. All the profits the church receives from the movie go toward building more schools in India.
And in a very real way, your ticket into "Not Today" is some child’s ticket out of poverty, discrimination and, very likely, slavery. Your dollars literally multiply a trafficked child’s options.
"Not Today" is just one way to help, but it’s the door I know. Whether you see a film, support an outreach (see organizations fighting trafficking that you can connect with at www.NotTodaytheMovie.com) or pray hard (or all of the above)—these kids are helpless, but you and I are not.
You and I have freedom, options, independence—and I hope you’ll see "Not Today." If we keep our promise to entertain you, maybe you’ll exercise your freedom to help.
John Schneider began acting at age eight in his home state of New York; moving to Atlanta at age 14, he broke into local theater and film. John's break came with the role of Bo Duke on "The Dukes of Hazzard," which ran on CBS from 1979 to 1985. He later became a successful country singer with multiple No. 1 songs. He continues a successful acting career in both television and film and has created many memorable characters on shows such as "Smallville" and "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman." The co-founder of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, John soon will be seen in the new Tyler Perry drama on OWN, "The Haves and the Have Nots."